Rothschild-built, National Trust-owned Waddesdon Manor is undoubtedly the pull to this small Bucks village just north of Aylesbury, but you’d be missing out big time if you didn’t pop in to its Grade II-listed boutique hotel and restaurant The Five Arrows.
This elegant former coaching inn sits at the edge of the Manor grounds (if you hit the super-long driveway, you’ve gone too far!), tucked just off the High Street, but the fairy-lit, immaculately-manicured garden and leafy surrounds gives this place country vibes in spades.
Following a mini facelift in Summer 2020, the hotel treads a stylish line between heritage chic and Scandi modern – think warm downlighting, plenty of natural wood and textures, statement mirrors and walls decorated with Rothschild-inspired prints.
For our visit we were led in one of secluded booths with a floor-to-ceiling window and beautiful views of the courtyard garden, which is definitely worth snagging if you want an intimate dining experience (not one for big parties or those with boisterous kids though – too snug). It was a Friday afternoon and there was a gentle buzz about the place – mostly couples and ladies on long lunches – so it’s clearly popular with locals as well as visitors to the Manor.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Muddy will happy tuck into regular menu at The Five Arrows any day of the week (check out our previous review here), but this time we were treated to the Afternoon Teapas. No, not a typo, but a new take on a classic afternoon tea, with small sharing plates instead of your classic fingers sandwiches. Best of all, you can order as much as you like, solving that savoury-to-sweet imbalance so common with an afternoon tea menu.
We sampled lemon-and-herb marinated olives, hummus and chargrilled flatbreads, grilled focaccia with tomato fondue and mozzarella, baked Camembert, ham and cheese toasties, honey glazed Cumberland sausages and salt and pepper tempura squid – and that was just the savoury selection!
The portions here are pretty hefty – each savoury plate is designed to be shared between two, but as every dish is satisfyingly filling, you might end up with an ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ situation (we certainly did – and may or may not have departed with a doggy bag full of excellent glazed sausages in tow).
Scones aren’t a course in their own right, they make up part of the sweets menu, but don’t skip them unless you’re really not a fan (in which case, we can’t be friends) – they’re freshly baked and truly excellent. Definitely another dish worth sharing though, because you’ll want to save space for the petit fours.
‘Petit’ is certainly right, as unlike the savoury options, these sweet treats are only designed to serve one each. We tried the tiramisu mousse with caramel glaze, carrot cake with white chocolate frosting and glazed walnuts, hazelnut and praline pannacotta with amaretto biscuit, whipped chocolate ganache with mango and passionfruit curd and – the absolute star of the show in our book – the passionfruit martini sorbet lollipop, which has a strong Prosecco kick and genuinely tastes like necking a top-notch cocktail.
But what to wash it down with? Like the rest of the menu, you can order drinks separately, including a decent selection of teas and coffees. We tried both of the alcohol-infused tea (!) options – apple and cinnamon infused with gin, and Maharaja chai infused with rum – which were delightfully subtle (don’t expect to get drunk off your cuppa).
If you’re in the market for something a little stronger, there’s an extensive wine list – including wines from Rothschild vineyards and Waddesdon Manor itself. If you can’t imagine scoffing an afternoon tea without a glass of fizz, we recommend the Waddesdon Sparkling Wine (£11 a glass or £70 a bottle). G&T more your speed? The Five Arrows serves up local gins from award-winning distillery Sky Wave and Bucks Brothers.
OUT & ABOUT
Obviously the big one is Waddesdon Manor. The beautiful landscaped grounds, which are also available around the perimeter for dog-walking, are open Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm, or you can visit inside the French château-style manor house on Wed-Sun, 11am-4pm. If you prefer your walks more woodland, Finemere Wood nature reserve is 4.5 miles away – it’s free entry, dogs on a lead are welcome, and there are wildflowers in abundance throughout spring and summer.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Long lunches with the girls, the family or the dogs (the bar is dog-friendly). There are some great gluten-free and vegan options, so everyone is catered for, and the option to order as many separate dishes as you like means there’s no fighting over the last scone.
Not for: Sunday lunchers and late-night nibblers – the Afternoon Teapas menu is only available Wednesday to Saturday between 2pm and 4.30pm. Depending on your little ones’ palettes, the savoury options might be too sophisticated for them – in which case, stick to the sandwiches.
The damage: Each plate is decently priced, ranging from £3 to £7.50 for savoury dishes and £4 to £4.50 for desserts, but with so many on offer you’re in danger of over-ordering. If you’re sticking to a strict budget, you can order the Chef’s Choice instead, which costs £25pp and serves up five of the most popular savoury options followed by four sweets, with tea or coffee included.
The Five Arrows, Waddesdon, Aylesbury, HP18 OJE. Tel: 01296 651727.
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